Ninety mile beach, a massive tree and travelling…

Before today’s travelling and exploring we sat on the local beach. The beach was extremely busy as you can see. Actually, it was completely deserted. I’ve never, ever been on a completely deserted beach before. It’s a Sunday and I’m wondering where everyone is?

What is amazing is the weather is warm and sunny. In fact, cloudless. Can understand why people don’t go on a beach like this at home (England) as may be chilly, but I’m shocked here because it is so beautiful and warm. Took off my shoes and socks and splashed in the sea shouting with joy like a kid.

The beach is aptly named the 90 mile beach and you can see for miles and miles. It goes from Kaitaia towards Cape Reinga along the Aupouri Peninsula and is on the western coast, north of the North Island and really only 55 miles long. The beach is used as an alternative route to the road when it floods (State Highway 1).

Here is a fun fact for you…During 2013, Jeremy Clarkson drove the length of the beach in a Corolla, with other crew including James May for the TV programme Top Gear. Bet that wasn’t a skid free journey. We did see a couple of wagons go along the beach. They waved to us as they raced by and we waved back hoping they hadn’t broken into our car which was languishing in a deserted car park. They hadn’t.

 

Also, we popped along to look at the dunes but didn’t succumb to bodyboarding. We were shocked at the size of the dunes. The dunes appear much like a desert landscape. Quite extraordinary.

 

On the way to the ferry at Kohukohu we stopped for lunch. Had a yummy chicken salad Sammie which was delicious. As I was eating, four sparrows were standing watching me enjoy my lunch. The owner proclaimed how she’d done everything to ‘get rid of them’. Told her I wasn’t complaining and just surprised how tame they are here. Sparrows in England, don’t come anywhere near humans. Birds are more prevalent and colourful here too and I enjoy watching them flutter around even if they are hoping to eat my lunch.

The road trip along the coast was enjoyable although the bendy roads can be tedious. On the way, we stopped at Waipoua Forest to look at Tane Mahuta ancient tree which has been standing for 2000 years. We cleaned our shoes, as requested on a rather grand machine, went through the forest to a clearing and there it is, the most huge tree you’ve ever seen with a Maori lady to welcome you. It is the fourth largest tree in the world. Quite spellbinding.

The tree is a remnant of the ancient subtropical rainforest that grew in the North Auckland Peninsula. This giant tree is the most famous in NZ and was discovered in 1924 by workers who were surveying the State Highway 12 road through the forest.

 

After this we stopped to take photos of the panorama views on the way to Baylys Beach and eventually arrived early evening at the camp site. We stayed in this cute wooden hut with terrace. Dumped our cases and walked to the local cafe Sharky’s. We enjoyed a delicious roast lamb dinner with lots of much needed vegetables.

After our humongous dinner, we sat at the bar and chatted to the locals about where we’d been on our travels, where they’d been, what we did (travel atm), local haunted hotels, etc, etc, and it turned out to be another interesting and fun evening.

More travelling tomorrow and thanks for reading my blog.

Where two oceans meet… New Zealand

We decided to stop at Paihia despite a disparaging opinion in the Lonely Planet NZ book. It suggests going to Russell, because it is prettier. Although it is pretty, we found Paihia pretty too and more vibrant. Plus it had a good craft beer pub. (Haha)

Paihia is a bustling village and significant, due to being the gateway of the Bay of Islands. It is an attractive and well set out village with an array of shops, cafes, restaurants and a barbers that is not open when it says it is! Yes, hubby is desperate for a haircut.

However, on the plus side, the village has, according to the sign, the most scrumptious ice scream establishment for the last 18 years. As I discovered, if you ask for a one scoop cornet, you are given a two scoop cornet and it is huge although considered ‘small’. Oh dear, I only wanted a small ice cream. Nevermind haha. Crikey, it was tasty.

A splendid sea view from the craft beer pub called Thirty30 Craft Beer bar is always very much appreciated. We both devoured the most delicious seafood chowder with thick brown bread. After this bowl of deliciousness, and a long day touring, I had an early night.

Before our road trip, the next day, we popped along to Waitangi Treaty Grounds to view the giant Maori sea faring vessel. The vessel signifies the founding of modern New Zealand. It is a certainly an interesting experience to explore this part of New Zealand.

We then drove towards the famous (top of New Zealand) Cape Reinga. This is where two oceans meet; the Tasman sea and Pacific.

As we were travelling to Cape Reginga, I booked a room at Awanui about 50km away. Must mention that our traveller mobile has been a great success for booking last minute accommodation as we tour around NZ. This village turned out to be a quiet place which looked a bit wild west but the motel was great, Large room with bed, lounge area and kitchen. The owner left a box of chocolate almonds for us. They didn’t last very long. Of course, I fell for the ‘last room available’ note on the internet. Only three other lots of residents were staying and they turned up late. My panic to book turned out to be unnecessary although it was a Saturday so you can’t be too careful.

The drive to Cape Reinga took about 80 minutes and was worth the trip. Great scenery, little traffic and not a cloud in the sky. Always helps when you have sunny weather, don’t you think?

Cape Reinga is an important area because according to Maori legend, this is where a person’s spirit comes after death and departs for their eternal home. We found many wooden boards explaining historic facts relating to Cape Reinga, as you explore the site, which makes the climbing and walking even more worthwhile. As you walk around this magnificent area it is compelling to look at the panoramic views where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean come crashing together.

The solitary iconic lighthouse is also a serene and spectacular vision and is said to be where the point of the colliding oceans swirl together. Amazing!

Well worth a visit and the historical details are interesting. Also, the area is a recognised home to many threatened plants and animals such as the tiny orchids and endangered flax snail.

Thanks for stopping by 🤗 .

 

Auckland, New Zealand

As soon as we arrived in New Zealand, I knew I was going to love the place. As we travelled from the airport, I noticed the neat and clean streets evoking a mindful ambiance.

The 3 night stay in this city was immensely enjoyable. Auckland is in the north island, has two harbours, an iconic Sky Tower and surrounded by islands. The harbour is full of grandiose yachts and lined with busy and bustling  bars and restaurants.

Auckland is inviting with the wonderful shopping area. We devoured a delicious tapas sharing lunch in the local quirky, plant filled old Turkish restaurant consisting of hummus, olives, roasted vegetables and lamb balls. Yummy and fairly healthy too. Continuing our wander we bought a new SIM card for the useful ‘traveller’ phone, as we’ve christened it, and finished the day with a stroll around the harbour area. It is a vibrant city which isn’t too busy and chaotic. They even have an electric scooter system for folks who wish to go a little faster than a walking pace.

During the evening we visited two brilliant pubs. The first is called Dr Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing Co., Quay Street, Viaduct and the other Danny Doolan’s. Both had an excellent choice of beers and the first one has the brewing vessels behind the bar. You can see the steam coming out of them!

Danny Dooland’s has live music, seven nights a week. This was an incredible introduction to Auckland nightlife. Music playing classic covers (everything from The Eagles to Foo Fighters), and hubby getting animated about a Benskins Brewery mirror adorning the wall. Benskins was an old established brewery in Watford, England, where we grew up. Everyone was talking to us and one, lovely Irish girl, took our photo in front of the mirror. She questioned why hubby was so amazed by the mirror. This was one of the best nights ever. Flipping amazing.

Next day we visited Waiheke Island by the restful and, you long term readers will be pleased to note, calm ferry and had a good go at…zip wiring!!! Another sublime experience. The views are spectacular on Waiheke and gliding over the forest canopy of NZ bush, huge fun. There are three zip lines and you glide with a friend. Each zipline is longer, steeper and, of course faster. Views of Hauriki Gulf are magnificent and they do dissipate rapidly as you wizz above the vineyards and forest areas. Afterwards we walked back through the native forest and saw some nature and lush, green bush and learnt about the history of Waiheke Island and habitat. We also managed not to trip over the tree roots that are prolific along the path but only just.

The Village of Oneroa is glorious with smart boutiques, gift shops, cafes and restaurants.  We devoured a late breakfast of bacon and eggs and during the evening treated ourselves to a rather posh dinner of roasted lamb and a glass of local wine. Scrumptious and with commanding views too.

When we arrived at the island we walked from the ferry into town and explored the beach area. It was there, as we walked along the flower and blossom filled path, by the sea, I realised people hadn’t exaggerated about the transcendental beauty of the New Zealand landscape.

On the day of leaving Auckland, we organised a rental car and walked into town to venture up the Sky Tower. We enjoyed panoramic views of Waitemata Harbour, Waiheke Island, and Auckland. Lunch was in the cafe overlooking the islands surrounding Auckland. Yes, I managed to walk on the glass bottom floor and take photos. Did feel a bit ill doing it though haha. Ridiculous really, as it as tough as any other part of the floor but the brain refuses to believe this.

Anyway, we walked back to a newly rented car and set off up north. The travelling continues…

 

Thanks for reading my blog post about our adventures, it is much appreciated. Can’t believe how lucky I am to see all of these fabulous places. Do feel free to comment.

Andy xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melbourne – Highlights

Botanic Gardens

I decided I wanted to visit the botanic gardens. Every city on this trip seems to have one and they all seem to be very different so you don’t get bored.

These gardens were designed by Director William Guilfoyle in 1873 with the premise of providing sweeping lawns, curving pathways, lakes and hidden vistas. The area is beautiful and centres around a volcano which influenced him during a visit to New Hebrides in 1868. The volcano is depicted with ‘lava’ flowing down (with circular paths), exotic plant beds, coloured pathways flowing from the crater and volcanic basalt rocks scattered throughout the site.

The ‘crater’ is quite surreal because it serves as a large pond area but, get this, the shrubs slowly move in the water. It was quite weird looking at the shrubs and then realising they are actually moving. All very clever.

Victoria Food Market

One of the highlights of Melbourne was the Wednesday evening food market. It is brilliant and just across the road from our flat.

When we first arrived we feared it was going to be empty and soulless. How wrong we turned out to be. It was packed full of food stalls from around the world, craft stalls and phenomenal music sets.

The standard of music whether in pubs or busking is superb in Melbourne. We’ve seen many musicians throughout our walks, pub and café visits.

During the evening, I enjoyed a pork dish from Nepal and it was delicious. Also, had a cookie, ice cream sandwich which was incredible. Sat and looked at this amazing vista of Melbourne and sculpture, as I was devouring it.

National Gallery of Victoria

Yes, of course we had to do the arty bit on the Southbank. Always a good gig especially when some of the art is focusing on surrealism and pop art.

This particular exhibition concentrates on the reasons why Surrealism, and precursors Dadaists, transpired. After the First World War, the movement flourished during the 1920s rebelling against authoritarian control whilst exploring varied art forms.

Influenced by Sigmund Freud’s controversial theories of dream analysis, they invoked irrational logic through their art whilst disparaging society’s values through perverse films, paintings and views. The idea is to liberate the unconscious through an interpretation of imagery.

Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel produced the ground-breaking film Un Chien Andalusia in 1929. Man Ray experimented with photography to project ghostly images and Max Ernst experimented with grattage art, by rubbing pigmented paper or canvas thus producing new artistic techniques.

These exhibitions included Andy Warhol Self-portrait no. 9 who is supposed to be one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century. His influence was profound and included television and music and he may have been the inventor of celebrity culture? The weird and strange portrait was produced just before his death in February 1987.

The iconic Pop Art is thought to be the antithesis of industrial and commercial culture as mass production took shape. The work exemplifies significant change in society and depicts a world of mechanised aesthetics connected with advertising and marketing including labels, magazines and posters.

An interesting mix of furniture and clothing design elements also are displayed in the Designing Women exhibition which includes product design, fashion, digital and architecture innovation and show cases works from significant diverse and creative fields.

Well worth visiting the gallery and it is worth noting that Julian Opie is exhibiting if you enjoy his simplistic work.

Elegant Enclave walk

This is another walk suggested by a friendly man in the tourist office. It is fundamentally a nose around the posh part of Melbourne looking at East Melbourne’s architectural suberbs and encompasses elaborate iron work, classic columns and lofty verandas from the Victorian era. Great fun and you enjoy a walk through the lovely Fitzroy Gardens too. In fact, that was the best bits because it includes Cook’s Cottage, the Fairies’ Tree by sculptor Ola Cohn and the sweetest Model Tudor Village. The Model Village was presented to the City of Melbourne by the citizens of Lambeth, England in appreciation of gifts of food. How lovely.

Also, of course you can wander around the pretty gardens and fountains too. All very enjoyable.

Final thoughts…

Melbourne is many people’s favourite Australian city and I must say I can see why. It is FUN, musical, creative and vibrant. The tram system is ingenious if a little perplexing for the tourist. Can’t really understand why you need to drive in this city and the traffic is pretty horrendous. Unfortunately, I find the mix of old and new a little annoying because I like modern and historical architecture but it is all mingled together and this is a shame. Most cities have old and new areas which, for me, is preferable.

However, I have enjoyed visiting Melbourne and loved the creative vibe of the city, the friendly people and amazing landscape.

 

Melbourne – Arriving and Exploring…

Arriving

After many hours of driving our arrival at Melbourne city centre, got off to an inauspicious start. We decided to return our car and use public transportation whilst in Melbourne. Thus started the real life nightmare. We’ve had a few instances with this car and frankly, was keen to see the back of it. Also, personally prefer to get about by bus, tram and train in cities. Can’t really understand why everyone doesn’t feel that way but by the amount of traffic in Melbourne, this clearly isn’t everyone’s opinion.

I located the office and car park on Google maps and we drove there. Simple. Unfortunately, we forgot to fill the stupid car up with petrol so I located a petrol station on G maps. Except it wasn’t one. It was a shop selling lots of lovely food. Also, during this time, I’d taken over driving, had a meltdown because of the trams, and was on navigation duties again. The mobile signal and or g maps continued to also have a meltdown so I attempted to evaluate the situation, and turn off the phone. Ho hum.

Another go at finding petrol failed miserably and we realised we would have to drive until we find one. Are you feeling panicked yet? Because I was giving up hope.

Two hours later we still hadn’t found one and the gauge was dropping. Eventually, we stopped outside the city and asked someone. Something my father used to do. Yes, it has been confirmed, google maps seems to go haywire in Melbourne. The man informed hubby of directions and we found a petrol station. Hooray.

The panic had set in and it was like one of those reaccuring nightmares where you can’t quite get to where you want to be. Except it is real life. On the way back to the car park we saw many petrol stations. Of course we did. When we took the car to the drop off rental place, the official asked if we’d filled up, started the car and said we could go. This meant that we didn’t have to visit the car rental office. The relief was profound. Hooray.

Not a great start to the wonders of Melbourne but onwards and upwards…

 

First day exploring – Arcades and Lanes

A good way of becoming accustomed to an area is to do a walk. We decided on Arcades and Lanes Walk to integrate ourselves with Melbourne.

The Tourist Office in Melbourne, similar to others in Australia, appropriates useful information in a friendly way. You can pick up all sorts of useful information including leaflets, walks, transport, maps and tips about the area. Think most of the staff are volunteers and they are incredibly good at what they do.

We set off with our leaflet on this particular walk through cobbled streets, arcades and lanes. It is fascinating to view the old buildings juxtaposed with new.

Degraves Street and along to Centre Place are known to be meccas for café society, juice bars, healthy foods, fresh coffee and the like. Some of the cafes are tiny, chic hotspots with recycled cinema seats and even benches from a former court of law. Very quaint, cool and fun.

Then to the famous Block Arcade which is named after the fashionable Collins Street where people flocked to ‘do The Block’. This area was built between 1891 and 1893 and retains the heritage shopping experience with mosaic-tile flooring and carved stone decorative interior. This is said to be one of the finest examples of a 19th century shopping arcade.

Continuing through the trendy areas of Melbourne and elegant, old shopping arcades we could see why people like Melbourne so much.

Unique expressions of art and music appear throughout the city and make the walking experience exciting. The independent shops, cosy cafes and laneways threading through the city are wonderful to behold.

One of the most distinctive places, for me, on this walk is the Capitol Arcade which opened in 1924. Was this one of the first shopping malls? It is beautiful and designed by Walter Burley Griffin (architect of Canberra) and Marion Mahony Griffin. It is a truly magnificent area with a great book shop to peruse in the basement.

The historical buildings, warehouses are also full of charm. In fact, this walk is charming as you see the shabby chic and quirky places mingling with glamourous, historical architecture. The graceful arches of Cathedral Arcade are extraordinarily exquisite, retaining original features and linking Swanston Street and Flinders Lane in the Central Business District of Melbourne. The arcade is covered with stained glass and lead lights which creates an amazing dome. The shop fronts feature wooden panels and the building is listed on the Victorian heritage Register.

How do you think we ended this walk? Yes, a pub. Well, the walk instructed us to. We had a quick drink in Young and Jackson where beer has flowed for over a hundred years. Drinking our beers, we sat in the bar pondering the nude portrait Cloe which shocked conservative Melbourne and made the hotel famous. The place is devine with photographs of old Melbourne adorning the walls. The public house is beautifully restored and blends a boutique bar and classic pub perfectly. A perfect end to our first day.

 

Mornington Peninsula

We arrived here and couldn’t find anywhere to stay and had a half an hour drive to a hotel. This is a lesson learnt. Check the area has copeous accommodation, especially if your visit falls on a weekend (Friday/Saturday).

We’ve bought a spare, cheap phone for local internet use. You buy a SIM card, pop it in the mobile and it is a useful tool, whilst travelling. It proved invaluable on this occasion. The panic was real, I can tell you when all the local places are fully booked.

Anyway, we spent the following day in this glorious area. Just an hour from Melbourne, you can enjoy an array of quirky shops, cafes, galleries, etc. in Mornington plus explore the harbour, park and walk along the coast. We soaked up the sea air before heading to Melbourne the next day. The alfresco lifestyle is abundant in the town and parks as people enjoy the innovative cuisine in the many cafes. I enjoyed a dish called ‘nearly vegan’ and the waitress looked disappointed as I confirmed my choice saying unnecessarily “even though I’m not nearly a vegan”… It was delicious and I didn’t regret my choice.

This reminds me. The following day we both had a Cornish Pasty for lunch. This may seem an odd choice, in Australia, but they are known for excellent pie making so we decided to devour one for an early lunch before leaving for Melbourne.

The Cornish miners came to Australia but I don’t think they passed the recipe down. Flipping heck it was bland. Wondered if I’d lost my taste buds. Both hubby and I sat and chewed and chewed in silence. A lady nearby, ordered the same because mine looked so delicious. She took one mouthful, jumped up towards the counter, disappointment palpable and asked for Ketchup. Oops.

Back to the Mornington Peninsula landscape we enjoyed meandering along the beach and endless coast. My hubby noticed Melbourne on the horizon, shimmering in the distance. It is quite surreal spotting the city on the horizon as you look directly out to sea. Do have a close look.